Dr. Surin Pitsuwan is 2014 Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award Winner
By Erica Burman on Friday, December 20th, 2013
The National Peace Corps Association is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2014 Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award is Dr. Surin Pitsuwan of Thailand. The Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award honors an outstanding global leader who grew up in a country where Peace Corps Volunteers served, whose life was influenced by the Peace Corps, and whose career contributed significantly to their nation and the world in ways that reflect shared values in human dignity and economic, social, and political development. It is the highest honor bestowed upon a global leader by the National Peace Corps Association.
A native of Nakhorn Sri Thammarat province in southern Thailand, Dr. Pitsuwan is the former Secretary General for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). He was first influenced by Peace Corps Volunteers David and Phyllis Johnston, who recognized his drive and ability. They were able to help him obtain an American Field Service scholarship to travel and study in the United States, launching a career of domestic and international public service.
Dr. Pitsuwan has served both his country and the world in a number of highly influential posts, including as a member of Parliament, a member of the Commission on Human Security of the United Nations, advisor to the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, member of the International Labour Organization’s World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, and advising the peace negotiations between the Acehnese Independence Movement and the Government of the Republic of Indonesia. As a Thai Muslim of Malay descent from a sometimes violent region of southern Thailand, he has worked to incorporate minority views at all levels of dialogue. He is a current member of the Advisory Board of the UN Human Security Trust Fund, the Advisory Board of the International Crisis Group, the International Advisory Board of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, an International Academic Advisor of the Centre for Islamic Studies, Oxford University, and an advisor to the Leaders Project, a conference arm of the Cohen Group of Former U.S. Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen.
Ongoing Peace Corps Connection
More recently, Dr. Pitsuwan has inspired the current Peace Corps Volunteers serving in Thailand with his idealism, belief in his country, and support of the Peace Corps’ mission. He was nominated for the 2014 Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award by the Volunteers of Peace Corps Thailand, Group 124. As they stated in their letter of nomination:
Throughout his career, Dr. Pitsuwan has risen to the top, no doubt because of his own brilliance, drive, and vision. Undoubtedly, however, some part of his success is due to a quality that he displayed in his talk to the Group 124 PCVs: his ability to put aside his accomplishments and his titles in the interest of having an engaging and honest conversation. He has a self-confessed love of language, communication, inquiry, and persuasion. In an afternoon, he convinced us that without the inspiration and confidence and assistance of PCVs, he would never have started on his extraordinary life path. He convinced us that he is not the exception, but the potential of all those who care deeply about peace, improving their communities, and engaging with and learning from others’ cultures, as equals.
Upon notification of his award, Dr. Pitsuwan shared the following comments:
I am most grateful for, and humbled by, the 2014 Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award. I will receive the Award on behalf of the innumerable lives that the Peace Corps Volunteers have touched and have turned around to become “Agents of Change” in many communities and countries around the world.
Mine is just one such life among million others that has been lucky on a long journey of self discovery and opportunities which began with the Peace Corps Program and the two PCVs, David and Phyllis Johnston of Seattle, Washington way back in 1964-1966 in Nakorn Sri Thammarat, Southern Thailand. David and Phyllis gave me a sense of self confidence, optimism and faith in the unlimited opportunities that, unknown to me then, I discovered by myself, one high school diploma and 3 degrees and a Congressional Fellowship later, all with scholarships and fellowships from the vast ocean of American compassion and generosity towards less fortunate people around the world. Whatever I had done all through the long journey, all could be traced back to that first exposure to the friendship and goodwill of the 2 Peace Corps Volunteers. For without them and the Peace Corps Volunteer Program, I would not have made it. And, with a sense of humility, many other lives would not have had their own opportunities that I helped open and encouraged them to take and move along in their own journeys.
I am looking forward to meeting you all in Nashville and Washington, D.C. in June.
The NPCA will present Dr. Surin Pitsuwan with the 2014 Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award on Saturday, June 21 at Peace Corps Connect – Nashville.
About the Wofford Award
First awarded in 2011 on the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps and annually awarded starting in 2013, the Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award recognizes an outstanding global leader who grew up and continues to live in a country where Peace Corps Volunteers served and whose life and career were influenced by the Peace Corps. The leader should be a person whose life’s work has made a significant contribution to the world in a way that reflects the core Peace Corps values of service, peace, development, human rights, health, and understanding. Named in honor of the former U.S. Senator and special assistant to U.S. President John F. Kennedy who was instrumental in the formation of the Peace Corps, the award was endowed in 2012 through a generous gift from Atiku Abubakar, a leading businessman, philanthropist, and former Vice President of Nigeria. Nominations are accepted throughout the year. The deadline for consideration for the following year’s award is October 31. More information: http://www.peacecorpsconnect.org/about/awards/